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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2  

Asthma awareness month

Professor & Consultant Pathologist Department of Pathology College of Medicine, King Faisal niversity Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2012

Correspondence Address:
Mirghani A.M. Ahmed
Professor & Consultant Pathologist Department of Pathology College of Medicine, King Faisal niversity Dammam
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 23012065

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How to cite this article:
Ahmed MA. Asthma awareness month. J Fam Community Med 2005;12:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Ahmed MA. Asthma awareness month. J Fam Community Med [serial online] 2005 [cited 2021 Nov 27];12:1-2. Available from:

The month of May is known as the World Allergy and Asthma awareness month. There is no country in the world which is devoid of asthma. The incidence of this disease exceeds 300 millions in the world. However, the prevalence of this condition tends to vary from country to country. In America alone there are 27 million asthmatics, 16 millions of whom are adults.

Asthma is the leading chronic allergic disease. It usually presents as wheezing, coughing, increased mucous production and difficulty in breathing. It usually starts in childhood, but can also occur during adulthood (adult-onset asthma).

Asthma tends to run in families. In fact, a person is 3 to 6 times more likely to develop asthma if he or she has an asthmatic parent than another whose parents are not asthmatics. Beside the genetic predisposition, several factors contribute in the development of asthma. These factors are mostly environmental. Moreover, certain respiratory infections increase the risk of asthma. The morbidity and mortality rates in asthma have increased during the last three decades. Many of the deaths have resulted from under treatment, while a high percentage of deaths have been due to indiscriminate use of sedatives and narcotics.

Factors that cause sudden difficulty in breathing i.e. acute asthma are known as triggers. Some of these trigger substances may be allergens which stimulate the immune system to produce IgE antibodies. The binding of the allergens to IgE causes inflammation in the bronchial tree which in turn causes asthmatic attack. The list of such triggers is long, but the common ones are mold, animal dander, pollen, dust mites and cockroach droppings.

Several non-immunological triggers can also cause asthma symptoms. Such triggers include exercise, exposure to dry cold air, upper respiratory viral infections, air pollution, tobacco smoking, some drugs such as beta-blockers, hormonal changes which occur in females, and expression of emotions e.g. loud laughter or crying.

Over the years, several medications for the treatment of asthma have been introduced. These medications include inhaled corticosteroids which result in fewer exacerbations. Β-agonists are sometimes used in conjunction with the inhaled corticosteroids. Systemic corticosteroids, on the other hand, are used in severe cases. Recently, leukotriene modifiers were introduced to improve the severity of inflammatory response.

Millions of asthmatic patients throughout the world live with poorly managed asthma. In Canada alone, thousands of patients underestimate the severity of their asthma and consequently, live with a poorly managed disease. In 1989, the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) program was initiated with the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to raise awareness among public health and government officials. Global Initiative for Asthma has specified the first Tuesday of May each year as the World Allergy and Asthma Awareness Day to raise asthma awareness and care around the world. Each year, GINA selects a theme for the awareness day and the theme for 2005 is "The Unmet Needs of Asthma". The reason for this selection was to call the attention to the need for better asthma treatment and control. The day's activities in each country are usually organized by educators, health care professionals and members of the public in each country. The first asthma day was celebrated in more than 35 countries in 1998. Participation has increased with each succeeding World Asthma Day. Each participating country has to determine whether there is evidence of unmet needs among their asthmatic patients.

At this juncture, one would like to draw attention to the establishment of an education plan for asthmatic patients. Patients need to know how to manage their asthma. This requires the creation of an asthma action plan, and is particularly important for children since asthma is one of the most common causes of absence from school in many countries. The creation of a plan requires the cooperation of parents, teachers and school health service. The members of this team have to be aware of the child's asthma and know how to keep his/her symptoms under control. To do this they have to know the medications the child takes, how they are administered and what side effects are if any. However, the child should not be treated any differently from other children in the school because of his or her medical condition. Attention should not be drawn to the child's asthma and management needs in the school environment. The child can participate in school physical activities as long as his/her asthma symptoms are controlled by medications. However, the physical education teacher should know what might trigger an asthma attack and plan ahead accordingly for the child. He should also know about the child's medication, which should be accessible to the child during practice. For the maintenance of the child's self esteem, he/she should not be left out of physical education.

Allergies, on the other hand, are associated with adult-onset asthma. Asthma associated with allergies is usually diagnosed in childhood. The environmental factors which trigger asthma in adults are the same as those responsible for childhood asthma attacks.

Adult asthma is also caused by non-allergic triggers. Severe cold or flu as well as exposure to certain workplace materials are known causes. Furthermore, hormonal changes associated with pregnancy or menopause may also trigger asthma. Although there is no evidence that asthma is curable, there is a lot which can be done to alleviate the symptoms and provide the patient with symptoms' free life.


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Journal of Family and Community Medicine | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
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